What Catawba Students Got Done at Dunn's Mountain Park
March 22, 2017
Catawba College biology and environmental science students recently spent an unseasonably warm and beautiful February afternoon day cleaning up Dunn's Mountain Park. A true local gem, Dunn's Mountain is an important ecological and historical preserve a few miles south of Catawba College near Granite Quarry, N.C.
The approximately 82- acre preserve is operated by Rowan County Parks and Recreation and is a frequent field trip destination for Catawba College botany and ecology courses. Due to the site's ecological and historical significance, the LandTrust for Central North Carolina purchased the property in 2001 and permanently protected the land under a conservation easement.
Dunn's Mountain, like many other granitic monadnocks (small hills or mountains made of bedrock) in Rowan County have been heavily quarried in the past for Salisbury Granite, the unique pink stone so prominently displayed in local cemeteries as headstones and as a building material in Salisbury and Granite Quarry. Evidence of major quarrying operations still remain at Dunn's Mountain and in some areas piles of refuse from the illegal dumping of rubbish before the site was protected still persist.
Despite the human impacts, the mountain is still an important preserve because it is the only formally protected granitic flatrock community in this region of the North Carolina piedmont and several of the state's rare plant species that only occur on rock outcrops exist there. Fortunately, several of the granite rock outcrops on the eastern and southeastern side of the mountain apparently had poor quality granite and thus were largely spared from quarrying.
Adam Broome, a junior Catawba College Environmental Studies major, remarked on the widely spaced and stunted chestnut oak forest surrounding the outcrops, "It's amazing that this type of unique forest and plant community is right here in Rowan County, it feels like you are up in the western mountains, or at least in the Uwharries."
Twenty Catawba College students from the Tau Eta chapter of Beta Beta Beta, an undergraduate biological honor society, and members of Dr. Jay Bolin's Natural Resource Ecology and Management class, participated in the cleanup. Students collected and bagged piles of discarded roof shingles, abandoned appliances, what seemed to be most of a classic car, and hundreds of discarded bottles and cans. Staff from the Rowan Parks and Recreation Department collaborated with the cleanup and hauled the trash bagged and piled by the college students for recycling or disposal. Many hands made the work lighter, and after a few hours of hard work, the piles of refuse were removed and a sense of accomplishment washed over the students.
After the cleanup, the students hiked to top of the mountain to view the High Rock Mountains and the Uwharries to the east and the faint sky scrapers of Charlotte to the south.
"What took years to build up, only took hours to clean up" said a satisfied Stephen Beaver, a Catawba College Environmental Studies senior. He added, "It was nice to finally clean this outcrop up after visiting so many times."